Microsoft-owned professional social network, LinkedIn, is winding down in China, the company has announced on Thursday. The decision to wind down follows increasing censorship rules by the authorities in China, which have made it difficult for the company to uphold rights to freedom of expression.
Last month, LinkedIn blocked profiles of researchers and journalists in China over ‘prohibited content’ that is considered offensive to the country’s Communist Party. The professional social network told affected users that it has an obligation to adhere to the requirements of the Chinese government in order to operate in China.
In 2014, LinkedIn launched a localized version in China in strict adherence to requirements of the Chinese government on Internet platforms. The company said it took the approach in order to “create value for our members in China and around the world.”
LinkedIn has succeeded in being the only Western social media company allowed to operate in China. A feat the company said it achieved by establishing a clear set of guidelines to follow in case there is a need to re-evaluate the localized version of LinkedIn in China. But things have changed significantly since then.
“While we’ve found success in helping Chinese members find jobs and economic opportunity, we have not found that same level of success in the more social aspects of sharing and staying informed. We’re also facing a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China,” the company said in a blog post.
“Given this, we’ve made the decision to sunset the current localized version of LinkedIn, which is how people in China access LinkedIn’s global social media platform, later this year.”
LinkedIn came under heavy criticism after its censorship update on publishers’ profiles last month, with many journalists and researchers accusing the company of “choosing profit over truth” and freedom of expression. Several journalists and writers shared the email they received from LinkedIn in September, pointing out the reasons why their profiles were removed.
A journalist, Greg Bruno told Insider that his book, “Blessings from Beijing: Inside China’s Soft-Power war on Tibet,” was listed on his profile, and could have been the reason his profile was blocked. Another journalist, Melissa Chan posted her email on Twitter, explaining that her profile might have been blocked because it contains some publications that the Chinese authorities don’t want to see.
“Could be many things – from this year’s piece about Uyghurs in exile, to my essay on democracy,” Chan said.
China has been facing widespread criticism over gross human rights abuses, especially the recent persecution of Uyghur Muslims. The Asian country has denied all allegations but has kept tightening its firewall, a censorship technology that prevents information not approved by the government from going in and out of China.
However, LinkedIn said it would continue to work for the interest of professional communities in China in line with its vision to build a global economy that delivers more prosperity and progress to people all over the world. The company said it will launch a new platform that will replace the localized LinkedIn – but strictly for jobs.
“Our new strategy for China is to put our focus on helping China-based professionals find jobs in China and Chinese companies find quality candidates. Later this year, we will launch InJobs, a new, standalone jobs application for China,” LinkedIn said in a statement. “InJobs will not include a social feed or the ability to share posts or articles. We will also continue to work with Chinese businesses to help them create economic opportunity.”